Canadian hospitals study patient safety

The study focuses on "patient harm" and not errors committed by staff.

By Andis Robeznieks — Posted June 21, 2004

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The first large-scale study of adverse events in Canadian hospitals found that patients are safer in Canada than they are in the United Kingdom or Australia, but not as safe as in U.S. hospitals, according to a report in the May 25, Canadian Medical Assn. Journal.

Researchers said that their study provided a starting point for understanding the impact of adverse events and focusing on patient safety improvement.

"This is the first time that Canada has done this, and we really hope it will start a healthy dialogue among the public, physicians and policy-makers to move this ahead," said study co-author Peter G. Norton, MD, head of family medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta.

There was an adverse event rate of 7.5 per 100 hospital admissions from the 3,745 charts that were studied. For the 2.5 million annual hospital admissions in Canada, this translates to about 185,000 adverse events, of which just under 70,000 could be classified as medical errors, the report stated.

Annual deaths from adverse events were calculated to be between 9,250 and 23,750.

Adverse events were defined as unintended injuries or complications caused by health care management.

"Studying errors focuses on processes and what individuals did, while adverse events focus on harm to the patient and outcome of care," Dr. Norton pointed out, adding that errors could also be considered "quality markers."

The 20 hospitals studied included teaching hospitals and hospitals with more than and less than 100 beds. Although teaching hospitals were found to have higher rates of adverse events, error rates were about the same for all three categories, Dr. Norton said.

The complexity of care in teaching hospitals -- with details of more procedures, more specialists and more hand-offs -- was probably the reason for the higher rate of adverse events, he said.

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External links

"The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence of adverse events among hospital patients in Canada," Canadian Medical Assn. Journal, May 25 (link)

Information on the Canadian patient safety study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (link)

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